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The 20th century cooling trend over the southeastern United States

Abstract

Portions of the southern and southeastern United States, primarily Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, have experienced century-long (1895–2007) downward air temperature trends that occur in all seasons. Superimposed on them are shifts in mean temperatures on decadal scales characterized by alternating warm (1930s–1940s, 1990s) and cold (1900s; 1960s–1970s) regimes. Regional atmospheric circulation and SST teleconnection indices, station-based cloud cover and soil moisture (Palmer drought severity index) data are used in stepwise multiple linear regression models. These models identify predictors linked to observed winter, summer, and annual Southeastern air temperature variability, the observed variance (r2) they explain, and the resulting prediction and residual time series. Long-term variations and trends in tropical Pacific sea temperatures, cloud cover, soil moisture and the North Atlantic and Arctic oscillations account for much of the air temperature downtrends. Soil moisture and cloud cover are the primary predictors of 59.6 % of the observed summer temperature variance. While the teleconnections, cloud cover and moisture data account for some of the annual and summer Southeastern cooling trend, large significant downward trending residuals remain in winter and summer. Comparison is made to the northeastern United States where large twentieth century upward air temperature trends are driven by cloud cover increases and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) variability. Differences between the Northeastern warming and the Southeastern cooling trends in summer are attributable in part to the differing roles of cloud cover, soil moisture, the Arctic Oscillation and the AMO on air temperatures of the 2 regions.

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Acknowledgments

Dr. Meng-Pai Hung provided computational assistance for this study and Michael Davis evaluated summer synoptic maps. Thanks to Barry Keim and to the 2 anonymous reviewers for extensive comments that greatly improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey C. Rogers.

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Rogers, J.C. The 20th century cooling trend over the southeastern United States. Clim Dyn 40, 341–352 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-012-1437-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-012-1437-6

Keywords

  • Climate variability
  • Soil moisture
  • Teleconnections
  • Regional cooling trend
  • Atlantic multidecadal oscillation